Finnish game developer bets on the Arab region - and wins

by Ahmed Gabr, March 10, 2014

Star Arcade

Developing games for the Middle East, and making current titles available in Arabic, are usually difficult and time-consuming tasks for most international game developers. But not so Star Arcade, a Finnish online and mobile games development studio with a complete portfolio of games available in Arabic.

“Currently, we are seeing tremendous growth in the Middle East with regards to smartphone and tablet penetration,” says Remco Smit, CEO of Star Arcade, rationalizing why they chose to invest in this market.

Smit seems to have a good understanding of how to address the gaming market in the region: “The freemium games [versus traditional paid games] are getting popular quickly at the moment.” He adds: “we expect that in-game items — or virtual goods — will become the largest mobile game revenues segment in the next two years in the Middle East, and will continue to grow in share through at least 2017.”

Star Arcade creates social games that run on iOS, Android, Facebook, and in the near future, Windows mobile as well. The company nurtures the concept of Facebook-to-mobile gaming, enabling gamers to play games and compete in a multiplayer environment across platforms. “Our basic idea with Star Arcade has been to enable people to play games and communicate with each other, regardless of the device they own,” says Smit.

Star Arcade’s first game, Jelly Wars, launched more than a year ago, is still one of their most popular game titles. The company currently maintains eight games, all of which are available in Arabic. Despite the fact of being a young company, Star Arcade is about to break even at the moment, and Smit expects additional revenues in the next few weeks and months, following the launch of their next two titles.

All of Star Arcade’s 26 employees are based in Finland, but the company has hired a Regional Sales Director for the Middle East, who is based between Lebanon and Saudi Arabia. Smit is also considering setting up a local design studio in the Middle East that would focus specifically on game design and development for Arabic-speaking communities worldwide.

For the last eight months, Star Arcade has been working on its new big gaming title: Jelly Wars 2.0, which is expected to go live in the second quarter of this year. “This game will create a completely new category in the mobile multiplayer gaming industry and we think it will be big,” concludes Smit hopefully.

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Ahmed is a writer and a tech analyst, passionate about technology and electronics. He is the founder of GadgetsArabia, the first tech blog in Arabic, and is the Editor-in-Chief of Swalif.Net. You can follow him on Twitter @ahmdgabr or email him at ahmed.gabr[at]wamda.com.